Although China is one of the world's largest producers and consumers of genetically modified (GM) crops and derived food products, little is known about the level of Chinese consumer awareness, understanding and acceptance of GM food. Initially, China pursued relatively aggressive policies for biotechnology development, but in recent years, the central government has become more sensitive to the potential environmental risks of transgenic food crops. To protect domestic biotech industries, the state plays a critical role in the politics of biotechnology, and does not allow GM food to become a prominent public issue. This contribution reports on a survey of 1,000 urban respondents. It demonstrates that most consumers lack the most basic understanding of biotechnology and its potential risks. The majority of the respondents (60 per cent) were either unwilling to consume GM food or were neutral about the idea, but when given neutrally-worded information about potential GM food allergenicity, the willingness to buy dropped sharply. This might point to future scenarios of consumer resistance against GM food as has happened in European Union member states. This effect demonstrates the malleability of the Chinese consumer in a context of limited understanding and inadequate access to information.